Archive | September, 2012

Tiny Pistol at West Wave Dance Festival August 27

17 Sep

After twenty-two years, West Wave Festival seems to have ended its late summer quest to present, commission and advocate for new dances, most of them modern.  Joan Lazarus, who has produced them, arranged funding and set programs, presided over this one-night performance featuring Maurya Kerr’s Tiny Pistol. Lazarus acknowledged  those who contributed the range of efforts required to execute this or any festival.  If there is an actual demise, and not a twenty-third festival blame it on the economy.

Having seen Likha’s celebration of its twenty years of performance and the sweeping summary of the Philippines’ 6000 island culture in dance form the afternoon before, Tiny Pistol separated itself not only by the Pacific Ocean, but by a diametrically different dance approach, the cultural collective in stark contrast to individual angst in fluctuating contemporary post-industrial western life.  Outside of hunting and gathering cultures, nothing could differ more in movement form.  The difference appears, essentially, in function versus individualized psychic flagellation.

If you ever saw Maurya Kerr when she was one of Alonzo King’s Ballet artist, you know how splendidly elegant she was; the overuse  use of adjectives helps to describe the narrow-boned body with its shape, the small head, the intense presence – Dovima in evening dress with the Elephant is a fair analogy.  You simply knew she would be distinctive in whatever she undertook.

I, with others, never expected her to explore the dysfunctional side of the psyche, our youth or our culture; it’s not a pretty subject, but an reality unavoidable using public transportation – tatoos, mussed hair, trousers perilously low on the hips, tee-shirts with raunchy messages, multi-tints on dreadlocks, multiple piercings – ears, lip, nostril, eyebrow, the tongue.  Each of such choices conveys something about the personality, the age group, the habits, the mind set, any collective pressure. Kerr explores the psyche in motion behind such facades in her three works: Buck, Sick with Joy, Freak Show a premiere.

David H. K. Elliott and Glynnis Slater supplied lighting design and costumes. The dancers were  Christopher De Vita, Robyn Gerbaz, Babatunji Johnson, Nick Korkos, Emilie Leriche, Casie O’Kane, Grace Luise Stern, Kimberly White, Megan Wright, all possessing technique to spare and most with some or extensive exposure to the world of Lines Ballet and its program with Dominican University.  Erika Cahill mixed the music, drawn from five to thirteen sources, for the three works.

What fascinated me most about the three works was Kerr’s strong sense of structure behind the seeming chaos of stage patterns, the mind-boggling angles and thrusts of individual bodies  in  isolated pools of moving; suddenly arms raise briefly in classical positions,  symmetry of floor pattern unites the ensemble, entrances and exits reflect a clear classical foundation. Culture, perhaps the conventional form, remains underneath in Buck.  This symmetry also occurred in Freak Show, dancers aligned in a physical pyramid with its base upstage center, a welcome relief to the vast vocabulary of disjointed, perhaps drug promoted gestures and leg thrusts.

I could not begin to enumerate the variety of  quirky movements; I just remember they managed to be slightly different in each work, reflecting a prodigious command of the unfortunate anomalous message in the works, underscored by the complex, intrusive quality of the sound mix.

Clearly, with the thunderous audience response, I recognize the talent exhibited in the program.  The works touched recognizable areas of experience and emotion.  As a senior citizen, I just wished Kerr’s choreography did not reflect those troubling areas quite so keenly.

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Likha Filipino Folk Ensemble Celebrates Two Decades

17 Sep

August 25-26 the Likha Filipino Folk Ensemble appeared at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts Theater under the title of Saludo. Celebrating  twenty years of longevity, despite a heavenly afternoon and the pull of the American Cup activities in the Bay, the audience was near capacity.
Likha’s glossy black-covered $10 souvenir brochure listed prior production covers, out of state and out of country appearances with small photographs of some of those highlights, credited with financing 15 full-length shows.  Each page, devoted to one of the areas, provided an image with identification and explanation of the dance on the upper right hand side of the page, while the same position on the left covered a summary of the overall theme.  The back inside cover described the Rondalla, the traditional Filipino stringed instrument ensemble, with a brief discussion attributed to Douglas Beck from Filipinas  magazine.  No listing of the dancers or musicians was included, let alone the dances in which they performed.

For this program Likha turned to an exposition of four major areas and/or traditions of the 6000 island archipelago: Cordillera, the mountainous region of Luzon; Barrio, the rural farming existence; Lumad,  from Southern Mindinao with the T’boli. Sibanen and Batak tribes; Bailes de Ayer with its Spanish colonial emphasis and Mindanao with its  Muslim adherents.

Arriving late, I saw perhaps half of the Barrio section.  This included a spectacular ensemble numbers always enjoyable to watch: Maglalatik with halves of coconut shells strapped to both sides of the upper chest, at the hips and at the knees.  The dancer, holding a half shell in each hand strikes the other shells on his body in a pattern which waxes from leisurely to frantic.  The program credits it to the Laguna province.

A second highlight, from Pangasinan, comes the Pandanggo Sa Banko where lit votive candle holders are held in the hands and on the head  of women dressed either in a camisetta and long skirt or a dress adorned with butterfly sleeves.  The men also partake of the same challenge practically doing push ups at one point.  Men and women stand on a bench and slide by each other after manipulating the votives with circular hand movements.

Finally the ubiquitous Tinikling, credited to the Leyte region, was performed.

Lumad, or the Indigenous, was listed before the intermission, and perhaps was one of the most absorbing of the five groups, since the traditions from Mindinao are those which retain animism and are not Muslim nor Christian.  The interweaving of the three tribal groups was handled extremely well and the costumes were close to the examples displayed in Habi, the definitive book on the subject.  The solemnity and reliance on signs of the spirit to bless and gather the harvest manages to cross the footlights quite clearly.  Of all the numbers, Lumad appeared to be the least “hyped up.”

The Spanish colonial tradition which followed intermission allowed the ensemble to display men wearing barong tagalogs, the diaphonous embroidered shirt worn outside the trousers, a sly riposte to Spanish sartorial constraints, and the women in the full skirted garments with slight trains, the bodice sporting a stylized bandana noted as the Maria Clara, embellished with lace.  Most of these dances are credited to Manila. Dresses in white, for the Jota Manilena, sported jet black aprons with varying degrees of lace, embroidery or brilliants.  The Sevillana,  a clear cousin to its  Andulician origins, enjoyed contrast between tops and skirts, was credited to Zamboanga. The dances, graceful adaptations of Spanish social dances, use bamboo for castanets, flatter and softer in sound than their Iberian models.

The two decades’ celebration finished with the Muslim traditions of Mindanao, an island possessing several  minority tribes beyond the traditions of Yakan, Tausig, Magindanao and the Maranao.  Emphasis was given to dances involving bamboo poles, used for balance, skill and the snooty version of Tinakling, accompanied by the brass Kulintang instruments.

Likha Filipino Folk Ensemble admirably demonstrates strong involvement by Filipinos and Filipino-Americans  in terms of numbers, age and physical size.  My one quibble with its admirable collection of dancers is that many male participants display less than optimum posture and  need training to realign their bodies for maximum health and effect.

Ballet San Jose’s 2012-2013 Season

5 Sep

Ballet San Jose will start its 2012-2013 season with a new Nutcracker, choreographed by veteran company principal Karen Gabay, running December 8-22, 2012.  Sets will be designed by Paul Kelly and costumes by Theoni Aldredge.  Gabay has run a summer company, Pointe of Departure, for several seasons, and seen locally at the Mountain View Center for the Arts.

February 15-17, 2013 the company will premiere the Ludwig Minkus  musical romp, Don Quixote , staged by Wes Chapman, Ballet San Jose’s Artistic Advisor, based on the Marius Petipa-Alexander Gorsky choreography.

March 22-24, 2013 Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Rendezvous, set to Francois Esprit Auber’s ,music, will receive its company premiere as well as the Jules Massenet’s Meditation from Thais,  created on Sir Anthony Dowell and Dame Antoinette Sibley when they were young principals with The Royal Ballet. Stanton Welch’s Clear to J.S. Bach music, will receive an
encore performance and there will be a revival of Kurt Jooss’ iconic anti-war ballet The Green Table, created in 1932, and instrumental in Jooss’ departure from Germany for England for the remainder of the ’30’s and through the World War II years.

The season will complete itself April 19-21, 2013 with some surprising inclusions of modernity.  These are Jorma Elo’s Glow-Stop set to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Philip Glass and Merce Cunningham’s Duets, a six couple series of pas de deux performed to the music of John Cage. An additional pas de deux will be announced. Jessica Lang will be represented in a world premiere for the company, represented in the 2012 season with Splendid Isolation III.

Ballet San Jose also has announced a new music director and conductor.  George Daughterty comes with a 30-year record of conducting for the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, Gelsey Kirkland, Suzanne Farrell and Natalia Makarova in addition to American Ballet Theatre, Munich’s State and La Scala Opera Ballets and The Royal Ballet.  He has been musical director for The Louisville Ballet, Chicago City Ballet and Ballet Chicago.  Guest conducting credits include San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, and abroad with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, the Danish National and the Sydney Symphonies.  Nominated for five Emmy Awards, he was awarded a Primetime Emmy for the ABC Network production of Peter and the Wolf.

Company promotions and new members have previously been noted.